McIntire Department of Music

"Anyone who has watched Steven Isserlis play the cello is pretty sure within a few bars that they are looking at a man who is following his true vocation. Whatever it is doing to the audience, the music - and the intricate process of getting it out - has an all-absorbing grip on him, which is perhaps more obvious than with most performers. The emotion that come across in his facial expression, in the extravagant flourishes, and well, writhing of his limbs suggests an unbreakable relationship between man and machine."
    - The Guardian, 9 May 2006

Photo by Tom Miller
Steven Isserlis is a cellist whose passion for music transcends conventional divisions. Acclaimed worldwide for his musicality and technique alike, he is equally at home drawing the audience into his circle of friends for chamber music or in recital; delving into the historical archives to emerge with a forgotten gem; or on the concert platform with some of the world's most prestigious orchestras and conductors.

Recent and future engagements include performances with both the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Leipzig Gewandhaus with Daniel Harding, the Boston Symphony with Raphael Frëhbeck de Burgos, the Minnesota Orchestra under Charles Dutoit, the San Francisco Symphony under Mstislav Rostropovitch, the Czech Philharmonic with Sir Charles Mackerras, the London Philharmonic with Tadaaki Otaka and the Philharmonia Orchestra under Vladimir Ashkenazy. He has also played the Beethoven Triple Concerto with Ida Haendel and Martha Argerich under Yannick Nezek-Sequin, and he appears regularly with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie and the Australian Chamber Orchestra.

British-born Isserlis takes a strong interest in authentic performance, playing with many of the foremost period instrument orchestras. In December 2004 he performed all Beethoven's works for cello with fortepianist Robert Levin in Boston, and this season repeats the cycle in one day at London's Wigmore Hall. He also performs the Dvorak Cello Concerto with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under Sir Simon Rattle.

The chamber concerts of Isserlis' devising are renowned, not only for the quality of performance, but also for his ingenuity and innovation in programming; he has created series at the Salzburg Festival, at the Wigmore Hall and in Zankel Hall in New York. Schumann is a particular passion for Isserlis, and this season he will perform Schumann's Cello Concerto on a major tour of Germany with the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie under Marc Albrecht, spearhead a Schumann project in Tokyo, and perform in an evening of words and music dedicated to the story of Schumann and Brahms, with a script written by Isserlis, in London and New York.

Writing and playing for children is another major interest for Isserlis. His first book, a children's history of the lives of six great composers, Why Beethoven Threw the Stew, was published by Faber & Faber in October 2001, and a sequel, entitled Why Handel Waggled his Wig, was published in 2006: both books have been met with high critical acclaim, and are translated into many languages. With his fresh, inimitable style and approachable personality, Steven Isserlis is ever popular with children and enjoys giving concerts especially for them. He will launch his own series for children at the 92nd St Y in New York in October 06. His interest in musical education has another outlet in the masterclasses he gives regularly all over the world; and for the past ten years, he has been Artistic Director of the masterclass and chamber music seminar IMS Prussia Cove. He has also published several editions and arrangements, principally for Faber Music.

Steven Isserlis is a keen exponent of contemporary music. He gave the world première of Wolfgang Rihm's Cello Concerto at the Salzburg Festival in 2006, and is working with many composers on new commissions. He has had a long collaboration with Sir John Tavener, whose work for cello and orchestra 'The Protecting Veil' was written for and first recorded by Isserlis, and future plans include the première performances of works by Mikhail Pletnev and Stephen Hough.

With an award-winning discography, Isserlis' recordings reflect his diverse interests in repertoire. His most recent releases include two recordings with Stephen Hough: the Brahms sonatas, coupled with works by Dvorak and Suk, for Hyperion Records, voted Listeners' Disc of the Year on BBC Radio 3's CD review; and a highly-acclaimed disc of children's cello music for BIS Records. This season, Isserlis releases the complete Solo Cello Suites by Bach on the Hyperion label.

Awarded a CBE in 1998 in recognition of his services to music, Steven Isserlis has received many honours, including in 2000 the Schumann Prize of the City of Zwickau (Schumann's birthplace); previous recipients include Gilels, Masur, Richter and Fischer-Dieskau.

Steven Isserlis plays the Feuermann Stradivarius of 1730, kindly loaned by The Nippon Music Foundation of Japan.

More information about Steven Isserlis can be found at

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